Summary: Philadelphia always stayed faithful to the Christian faith until the end of its history, a powerful testament to the nature of a church for which Jesus had no admonition nor condemnation. God grant that we, too, may have that faithfulness to the end.
THE CHURCH OF THE OPEN DOOR
1. HISTORY OF PHILADELPHIA
Philadelphia/Alesehir is located approximately 80 miles east of Smyrna/Izmir and 26 miles southwest of Sardis. It stands on the Cogamis River, a tributary of the Hermus river.
Philadelphia always stayed faithful to the Christian faith until the end of its history, a powerful testament to the nature of a church for which Jesus had no admonition nor condemnation.
Ancient writer Strabo who visited the area wrote that the city suffered from so many earthquakes that the people of Philadelphia lived in their farm houses in the countryside. The earthquakes are amply recorded in history, a severe one occurring in 17 AD, which destroyed this city and eleven others. Sardis fared worse from the initial quake, but Philadelphia shook more frequently from severe aftershocks, traumatising the population. Strabo noted the city was “ever subject to quakes”.
The chief deity of Philadelphia was Dionysius, the Greek god of wine (the Roman Bacchus), due to the fertile soil and ample water supplies.
2. THE KEY OF DAVID
Before we start, there is an important item to understand concerning a key that Jesus holds. In verse 7, John wrote that Christ is the One "who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open." Christ had set an open door before the church that "no one can shut."
What was this key that unlocked a door that could not be shut? The answer lies in the key and door metaphor, which is found in the writings of the prophet Isaiah. He referred to an individual of his time named Shebna who had charge of the palace of the Judean king. The prophet Isaiah said the Lord would replace Shebna with a man named Eliakim.
Isa 22:20-24 And in that day it shall be, even I will call My servant Eliakim the son of Hilkiah. 21 and I will clothe him with your robe, and will fasten your girdle on him, and I will give your authority into his hand. And he shall be a father to the people of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 And the key of the house of David I will lay on his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open. 23 And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house. 24 And they shall hang on him all the glory of his father's house, the offspring and the offshoots, all small vessels, from the vessels of cups, even to all the vessels of jars.
The Lord would "place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open" (Isaiah 22:22). Eliakim would be a gatekeeper who would decide who could or could not have access to the king.
In the book of Revelation, John used this Old Testament metaphor to get across a vital message to the church in Philadelphia, and thereby to all Christians. That is, Christ has the key of David. He opens the door for the church and allows it to come into the presence of God. In short, Christ has granted Christians access to the presence of God, His kingdom and eternal life. Not only does Christ open the door, he is the door to the kingdom (John 10:7, 9). So, it is Jesus who presents Himself to the church as the way to salvation (John 14:6).
The church at Philadelphia was a church of awesome opportunity. Jesus comes to them and unveils to them a vision of what they could do. This church:
* Could influence people to enter an open door and worship the Lord, i.e., a revival church
* Could influence people to know that God loves them, i.e., an influential church
* Is a church where people recognise that the name of God is there, i.e., the presence of God is there
4. GOD GIVES GRACE
The greatest thing that God gives to His church is vision, i.e., an open door. The Philadelphia church is similar to any church open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, in that God is giving us an opportunity to be a church that can be part of changing this nation. Therefore, like the Philadelphia church, we need to have a great vision of an open door. Such things come from our vision:
* Our vision comes from God, i.e., we did not work the vision up. I believe God’s vision has become our vision.
* A vision of reaching those of the “synagogue of Satan” so they come and worship God. This is a vision of influencing those in a liberal church, a heretical church, a cult, a false religion, and the secular-humanist.